Category Archives: Wildlife Protection

Help Protect Monarch Butterflies

It’s hard not to smile when spotting the distinctive orange patterns of a monarch butterfly. They are symbols of both fragility and strength, their delicate wings carrying many of them as far as 3,000 miles during migration season. Monarchs also serve as pollinators for many types of wildflowers.

Unfortunately, monarchs are on the decline – their populations have decreased by over 80% in the past 20 years due to factors like habitat loss, pesticides, and climate change.

Photo credit: USFWS

Mass Audubon is signing onto a letter, led by our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council, to support monarch butterfly conservation funding in the federal budget. We’re urging the House Appropriations Committee to substantially increase the amount of funding spent on the conservation of monarchs, and on the restoration of their habitat.

You can help! If you live in Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s district, please urge her, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, to increase the amount spent on monarch conservation in the FY2020 federal budget to $100 million per year.

Photo credit: USFWS

And no matter who your federal legislators are, you can still ask them to support increased budget funding for monarchs.  $100 million per year in federal budget funding would cover the cost of restoring one million acres of milkweed and pollinator habitat per year, allowing monarchs to be more resilient to the numerous threats they face.

Monarchs are one of our most beautiful harbingers of spring. Thank you for taking action to help ensure their long-term survival so we can have the privilege of co-existing with them for many seasons to come.

P.S. – There are lots more ways you can help protect Monarchs and other pollinators.

Help Prevent Bird-Building Collisions

In the U.S., window strikes are estimated to kill up to 1 billion birds annually, and window strikes are one of the leading causes of death for migratory birds.  The problem occurs when birds see their natural habitat mirrored in windows and fly directly into the glass, causing injury, and, in 50 % or more of the cases, death.

Photo credit: John McHugh CC BY 2.0

To help reduce these preventable bird deaths, Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL) has reintroduced the Bird-Safe Buildings Act: legislation requiring all new and redesigned federal buildings to incorporate bird-safe building materials and design features.

You can help by asking your US Representative to protect birds by cosponsoring H.R. 919, the Bird-Safe Buildings Act.

Learn more about this issue.

Review on Offshore Wind Picks Up

Mass Audubon’s top climate change mitigation priority is the responsible development and use of offshore wind, which could bring more than 4 gigawatts of clean, renewable energy to Massachusetts. We’ve been participating in the public review process for this growing industry, the leading project for which is currently Vineyard Wind. When built, this 800 megawatt project is expected to provide enough electricity to power approximately 400,000 homes, while removing approximately 2 million tons of carbon emissions from the air.

Three other projects are also on the horizon, and three additional federal leases off Massachusetts were recently granted in a record-breaking auction.

This week, we weighed in on the latest stages in the Vineyard Wind permitting process. This project would be located in federal waters, with transmission cables crossing Massachusetts waters and connecting to a landfall on Cape Cod. That means it has to go through both federal and state reviews.

BOEM’s most recent map shows the planned projects, and leases for potential future projects, that will make up the offshore wind industry off Massachusetts’ shores

First, we submitted comments with our conservation partners to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. At a time when offshore wind is growing with unprecedented momentum, it’s crucial that BOEM ensures projects take measures to protect species like the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale and federally-protected birds.

We also submitted separate comments, again with partners, to the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. These comments focused on the Final Environmental Impact Report for Vineyard Wind’s land-based transmission cable, which also takes into account the project’s overall impact on Massachusetts. We recommended that the project follow a proposed route that would limit impacts to fish spawning areas, horseshoe crabs, and other benthic resources, and that it address the full range of potential impacts on all bird species known to forage and rest in or near the project area.

As we expect to see up to seven wind energy projects over the next few years off the Massachusetts coast, it’s important to establish sound environmental review, and mitigation, practices now. Mass Audubon’s role in this process is to help ensure the industry grows in a way that will help reduce the worst effects of climate change, without negatively impacting wildlife.

Say No to Seismic Testing

Recently, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) authorized the use of seismic testing for offshore oil and gas resources in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the lawsuit filed by a group of nine Attorneys General, including Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, this decision violates environmental law and has the potential to harm more than 300,000 marine mammals. The group is suing the Trump administration over this decision.

Specifically, the NMFS decision issued Incidental Harassment Authorizations to five private companies for seismic testing for offshore oil and gas exploration in the Mid- and South-Atlantic Ocean. 

A North Atlantic right whale and calf. Photo credit: NOAA

Going forward, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is responsible for permitting geophysical surveys, and makes decisions about energy development in the waters of the outer continental shelf. The seismic testing decision also comes as the federal government is moving forward with a proposal to expand US offshore oil and gas drilling – which we also oppose.

Let BOEM know it would be unacceptable to permit any surveys that allow harmful seismic testing – you can email BOEMPublicAffairs@boem.gov. Our marine species, like the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, are already vulnerable to threats like climate change, and the impacts of these types of tests on their populations could be disastrous.

Wind and Wildlife

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has spoken out against wind energy on the grounds that it kills birds—but estimated bird deaths from wind turbines are small when compared to other human-caused sources of avian mortality, like building collisions. On top of that, climate change is by far the biggest threat to all birds living today. Of Massachusetts’ 143 breeding bird species evaluated by Mass Audubon, 43% are “highly vulnerable” to its effects.

That’s why Mass Audubon supports responsibly-sited wind projects to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We can do this by increasing conservation and efficiency, and by producing clean energy. Wind energy is now among the most cost-effective, competitive, and reliable clean technologies available.

Photo credit: Ryan O’Sullivan

Any development of new energy sources is bound to have some impact on wildlife and their habitat, but Mass Audubon advocates for prospective offshore wind projects to be designed to avoid any significant environmental damage. Anticipated impacts need to be minimized and mitigated – that’s the sequence to success and the review standard to which all projects should be held. With appropriate design, siting and mitigation, the industry can grow as Massachusetts does its part to combat the impacts of global climate change.

Read more in our recent Op Ed.

More Momentum for US Offshore Wind

Update 12/17/18:

Last week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held their auction for three offshore wind leases in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The results were staggering – the winning bids from three companies totaled $405 million, which is nearly a tenfold increase from the most recent prior federal sale! The areas could support approximately 4.1 gigawatts of commercial wind generation, enough to power nearly 1.5 million homes. Federal officials and wind industry insiders alike were surprised by the sale – this Boston Globe article looks at how the event marks a decided shift for US offshore wind energy.

In other wind news, Mass Audubon will also be commenting on the latest stage of Vineyard Wind’s proposed offshore project later this month, on which BOEM will be holding public hearings.

Original post:

Last week the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced several major developments in American offshore wind energy, including one here in Massachusetts.

Expansion of offshore wind here in the US will be critical in reducing emissions that contribute to climate change.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold the next Massachusetts offshore wind auction – to include nearly 390,000 acres – on December 13, 2018. Nineteen companies have qualified to participate in the auction. It’s estimated that this auction could support more 4.1 gigawatts of power to supply nearly 1.5 million homes. Mass Audubon plans to review and comment on any projects resulting from the lease.

Speaking at the American Wind Energy Association Offshore Wind Conference, DOI Secretary Zinke also announced the environmental review of a proposed wind project offshore Rhode Island, and the next steps to a first-ever wind auction in federal waters off of California.

While this is good news for the growth of renewable energy, the Trump administration also plans to ease Endangered Species Act regulations to speed up the approval process for offshore wind projects. Mass Audubon will be opposing that change – for offshore wind deployment to be done in a way that is safe for wildlife, a full understanding of the risks to species is needed.

Learn more about Mass Audubon’s recent involvement with the offshore wind public review process here.

Bald eagle © Robert DesRosiers

Endangered Species at Risk Again

Update 10/1/2018: Mass Audubon signed onto joint comments with more than 200 of our partner conservation groups to speak out against these proposed changes.

Over the past few weeks, the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) has come under unprecedented threat. For 45 years the law has successfully protected wildlife, including species like the Bald Eagle, which the ESA helped bring back from the brink of disappearing in the US. In fact, thanks to the ESA, more than 99 percent of the nearly 1,800 animals and plants protected by it have been saved from extinction.

Now, the ESA is under attack. In the past two weeks, more than two dozen pieces of legislation, policy initiatives, and amendments designed to weaken the law have surfaced. Many of these proposed changes have been under the guise of “updating” or “reforming” the Act, but in reality would undermine its core principles and gut its scientific basis for protecting wildlife.

Bald eagle © Robert DesRosiers

Bald Eagle © Robert DesRosiers

Earlier this month, Mass Audubon and 420 other national, state, and local conservation groups sent a letter to US Senate and House leadership voicing our overwhelming support for the ESA. Our group included at least one organization from all 50 states.

We’ll be continuing to follow this issue closely, and will keep you updated with actions you can take to keep the ESA firmly in place.

North Atlantic Right Whales Need Our Help

The North Atlantic right whale is in trouble. Since April 2017, at least 18 North Atlantic right whales have died and, for the first time ever, no new calves have been spotted this year. Scientists estimate that fewer than 440 individuals remain. Right whales are often killed by entanglement in commercial fishing gear and ship strikes, and their low population numbers can’t afford to let these incidents continue.

A North Atlantic right whale and calf. Photo credit: NOAA

Mass Audubon is writing to our congressional delegation in support of the federal SAVE Right Whales Act, sponsored by Congressman Seth Moulton and Senator Cory Booker. The SAVE Right Whales Act would establish a new grant program to fund collaborative projects between states, nongovernmental organizations, and members of the fishing and shipping industries to reduce the impacts of human activities on North Atlantic right whales. Please ask your US Representative and Senators to support this bill.

You can also call on NOAA to continue stepping up efforts to protect these creatures. Ask Regional Administrator Michael Pentony and his Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office to expand their efforts to protect North Atlantic right whales, since the measures implemented to date by federal regulators have not gone far enough to save them from the threat of extinction.

 

 

Action You Can Take This Week: Support Pollinator Habitat Protection

One of our top legislative priorities this session is a bill related to pollinator health: S.2460resolve to protect pollinator habitat, filed by Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) and Representative Mary Keefe (D-Worcester). It was recently reported to the Senate Committee on Rules, the last stop before consideration before the full Senate.

We need your help to get this bill passed before the end of the session! Please call your state Senator today and ask them to support this bill, which is critical to protecting both wild and native bees, as well as a whole range of pollinators including butterflies.

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

The Intern Intel Report #1: Summer 2018 Edition

Hi! I’m Jetta Cook and I’m a new Conservation Policy Intern here at Mass Audubon. I’m an incoming senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where I’m double majoring in Natural Resource Conservation and Legal Studies. For as long as I can remember, I have had a love for the outdoors, and the creatures that call it home. I hope to enter the field of environmental law and policy to help in the fight to preserve our natural world.

Growing up on Cape Cod, it was hard not to spend as much time as possible outdoors. Being surrounded by such large areas of protected land allowed me great opportunities that I would like to help ensure for the next generation. I became acquainted with Mass Audubon and the great work they do through my time spent at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, where I explored both with my family and through their summer camp sessions, which I both attended and volunteered for. I also helped volunteer at Cape Cod National Seashore for both their Interpretive and Natural Resource divisions, protecting the land and helping to show visitors what makes that park so special. Through these opportunities, it has become clear to me that through the hard work and dedication of these organizations, crucial land and habitat can be protected, along with the wildlife species that depend on them.

Going forward, I hope to continue more into the field of environmental law and policy to help ensure the conservation of our natural world. I am hoping to go to law school to give me more tools to assist in my passion for conservation. Over the course of the summer, I will be gaining experience to help me on my way. I will be writing more blog posts about this journey, and I hope you will all come along for the ride!

Conservation Policy intern Jetta Cook